DONALD Trump’s new links near Aberdeen will be Europe’s first £100 million golf course by the time it opens next summer.
The American entrepreneur has forked out £50 million on the construction of the course alone and that figure is set to double once a clubhouse has been built and a road network is put in at Menie Estate.
“It will be the most expensive golf course built in Europe by quite a distance,” said Geoff Russell, the editor of golfbusiness.com. “To put it into perspective, when The Oxfordshire [the venue near Thame which hosted the Benson & Hedges International Open] was built it cost around £24 million and people were gobsmacked by that.”
The cost of the Trump project also dwarfs two other championship courses built in Scotland over the past few years. The Castle Course at St Andrews is reported to have cost £3.8 million, while it is believed that £1.5 million was the budget at Machrihanish Dunes.
Trump’s plans were dogged by controversy, with planning rows and protests from local residents. But less than 18 months after construction work started, Trump International Golf Links, the centrepiece of a £750 million resort and luxury housing development, is on schedule to open on 1 July, 2012.
Before even opening for play, the Martin Hawtree-designed layout has been earmarked as a potential new venue for a European Tour event, with Trump’s sights set on staging a Ryder Cup and perhaps even an Open Championship on the Balmedie course one day.
He vowed it would be the “world’s greatest golf course” and has backed up his attempt to create that on a near three-mile stretch of the North-East coast which he dubbed “the great Dunes of Scotland” by ploughing cash into it. Providing an update on the project, Sarah Malone, Trump International Scotland’s executive vice president, said: “The course has exceeded expectations and the land lent itself to the course so easily. It’s come along so quickly we decided to release tee times for bookings early. They’re coming from all over the place – regionally, nationally and internationally.
“Mr Trump has 11 golf developments and a lot of members from those developments are very interested to come over, see the new site in the home of golf and are excited to play it.”
Asked about the cost of the course, she added: “We’ve spent well in excess of £50 million. The whole planning process is expensive and there have been many hurdles to overcome.
“This project wouldn’t have happened with any other developer and his absolute belief in the site.
“It was a virgin piece of land. We’ve added the most sophisticated irrigation system, but you’re not going to invest that level of money and take any chances, we have a fantastic base and the best drainage money can buy. Right up to today Martin and Mr Trump are making small changes. The attitude has been that good isn’t good enough, we want great.
“All of the consultants and people that have been involved have learned to think bigger to keep up with him [Trump], and he’ll challenge us to move the bar up again and again. There’s never going to be a golf course built like this again.”
On the costs that have still to be incurred, Malone said: “We have a planning process in place for a temporary clubhouse to be ready by July, a permanent clubhouse and car park.
“You can double what we’ve spent already for the finished golf course and clubhouse. Because it’s Mr Trump’s own money, once we have the permissions in place for the clubhouse, we can turn our attention to the first phase of the hotel.” George O’Grady, the European Tour chief executive, and Sandy Jones, his counterpart at the PGA, were impressed when they paid a visit to the course during the Walker Cup at nearby Royal Aberdeen in September. On the back of that, Trump called O’Grady on two separate occasions after Barclays withdrew its backing of the Scottish Open, leaving the European Tour seeking a new title sponsor for one of its biggest events.
But it will be 2014 at the earliest before the new Trump course, which measures 7,400 yards off the back tees and is a par 72, is ready to stage a Tour event. “Our intention is to hold a tournament in 2014 and we’re building the team to ensure that right now,” said Malone.